We are all Astros fans

The Astros celebrated on Saturday Night Live in New York

Sports has always been a getaway from frustration, boredom, fear, you name it. As humans, we turn to sports to get relief from the battles we are enduring, if only for a few hours at a time. But sports isn’t the same. There is more emphasis on player contract extensions or daily fantasy play than the actual enjoyment of watching a game. 

But the Houston Astros have changed all that.

Just a few years ago, the Astros were one of the worst teams in baseball, losing more than 100 games three years in a row — capped off by a 51-113 record in 2013 — yet the organization stuck with the game plan of building on young players. And it has paid off. For the first time in franchise history, the Astros won the World Series. 

The Astros set records in the first part of this season, then cruised along in the second half to a Division title. Still, the likes of ESPN focused on teams such as the Los Angeles Dodgers, Cleveland Indians and New York Yankees.

After Hurricane Harvey ravaged Southeast Texas, including the Golden Triangle and the Houston area, with more than 50 inches of flooding rain, the Astros were without a home stadium for several days. Though Minute Maid Park didn’t flood, the Astros were forced to play three home games in St. Petersburg, Florida. The teams asked for a day off during the stretch run of the end of the season to return to Houston to help out with relief efforts.

The Astros also added a patch to the upper left side of their jerseys that read “STRONG” just under the Houston logo, which is something we needed to see. The Astros were with us as we struggled with flooded homes, cars and belongings. It was a reminder as to what was lost during Harvey, but also that there was a lot to play for.

This wasn’t your average MLB playoff journey. What the ‘Stros accomplished was winning the title by defeating the three biggest names in baseball — the Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees, and Los Angeles Dodgers.

It wasn’t easy, and they gave us fans a rollercoaster of emotions. Not many picked the Astros to advance past the Yankees, much less the Dodgers, who had the best record in baseball and had the top pitcher in the league in Clayton Kershaw. Game 5 alone became an instant classic as each team traded homeruns throughout until Lance Bregman drove in the winning run in the bottom of the 10th, ending the 5 hour, 17 minute thriller.

In the decisive Game 7, it was a no brainer from the beginning. The ’Stros took a 2-0 first inning lead then added three more runs and shut down the Dodgers in Los Angeles to capture the biggest trophy in professional sports with a 5-1 win.

Tens of thousands of fans then took to the streets of downtown Houston near Minute Maid Park to celebrate, but it’s not what you think. We are used to seeing all the ruckus where cars get turned over, fires are started, along with senseless drunken fights. But not here.

Tears of joy could be seen on fans’ faces. Even the police officers who lined the streets to work security were emotional. Men, women and children of all ages were celebrating with each other. No one cared about race or religion. If you were an Astros fan, you were family. Academy Sports+Outdoors stores opened up at midnight after Game 7 to sell World Series merchandise so fans could race to get a shirt or cap.

It was just the same during the parade, where hundreds of thousands of fans showed up as school districts declared the day a holiday so that teachers and students could partake in the historical celebration.

Hurricanes, gun violence, and political outrage have dominated the headlines for quite some time, yet the Astros gave us the opportunity to have a moment where we weren’t thinking about anything negative. Whether it was sheetrock, water, electricity, food, FEMA trailers, Red Cross or debris piles — watching this team play baseball gave us the opportunity to forget those things, only if for a little while. And each player on the roster was needed to succeed. From 5-foot-6 José Altuve crushing home runs or watching the warhorse Justin Verlander pitch nine innings — it was a complete team effort.

Texas is known for football, and fans around the area usually never agree on whom to cheer for, but one thing is certain — everyone is an Astros fan. Yes, their jerseys say Houston on them. But this is OUR team. This is what every sport is supposed to be.

Examiner sports and entertainment editor Chad Cooper can be reached at cooper [at] theexaminer [dot] com.

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